KidsMatter was fortunate to be able to interview Judi Fallon, Schools Program Manager at the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.  Judi is responsible for the eSmart Schools Framework development and implementation in all schools across Australia and is an expert on cybersafety for children. KidsMatter asked her a few important questions about keeping kids safe online over the break.

How can families support children with safe online use?

Parents are generally supportive of the positive benefits of social media in their kids' lives but are unsure of what to do to keep kids safe. We need parents to manage and monitor their kids activities, know how to talk to them about digital media and be able to raise tech savvy kids and good digital citizens. 

Our children need to develop good digital citizenship skills to learn to navigate the digital world safely and responsibly. This means understanding the risks and benefits, and helping them to develop their digital IQ.

There are a few specific tips I have for families:

  • Role modelling is a great way to start promoting a healthy digital lifestyle, and parents can help establish good habits through family device-free dinners and family media activities. 

  • There is always a worry of open chat rooms when they are gaming. Listen to or watch the chat, and be alert to anything that is not about the actual game. 

  • Set the privacy settings and check them regularly. New devices come with default options; make sure you know to close any open access.

  • Good parental controls on wifi access is a great way of monitoring and checking their downloading/uploading history. 

  • Geo-location settings should always be off; we don’t want everyone to know where your child is. 

  • Technology has no place in the bedroom - you don’t know what is happening. Have a set docking time at night when devices are left in the living room. 

  • Most importantly, talk to your children about what they are doing online. 

Video games and digital devices are common gifts. What are some of the important things to consider when giving these types of presents?

I am sure there will be lots of technology requests at thistime of year! Family should proceed with caution when it comes to giving these sorts of presents. Extended family should check with parents what (and how many) devices and games the children already have.  Sometimes parents are not supportive of additional gaming activities in their children’s lives so it’s important to seek input prior to purchase.  

Determining what is suitable is important too. Check the classification – is it age appropriate? Is the game violent? Does it conflict with family values?

If the device is connected to the internet, does it increase the risk of children being unsafe online? Is this the first internet-enabled device the child has interacted with? I would recommend helping the child to develop their digital IQ, as I mentioned above.

Children’s screen time is likely to increase over the next month or so with children on school holidays. What are some strategies for parents to manage this?

Everyone knows children love technology and school holidays (and a lot of extra time on their hands) means digital devices might be a major part of their activities. Too much screen time can have lots of effects on kids. There needs to be a time limit in place, with a good break in between sessions for kids to run around and be active.  Also, make sure they are using their devices within sight and sound of their parents so there is an awareness of what they are doing and for how long.